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Fossil-High Tech : Running time machine, made in Berlin

Orobot is not there. Too bad. You would actually like to see a robot that has pretty much do anything with a future, but very much with a very long back in the past, past, personally, met. But Orobot're in Lausanne and not in the old brick building of the Humboldt-University in the vicinity of the Charité-high-rise building. Only John Nyakatura. The is not a robot, but a man who builds with other people robot, to understand extinct animals.


Orobot is 1.42 meters in length, and takes its name from a creature called Orobates pabsti. The was a four-legged animal, about 85 inches long, that lived nearly 300 million years ago in the area of today's Thuringian forest, and the skeleton of a fairly complete fossil, and beautifully preserved footprints.

If Orobot would be there, could you let him go (Video). And the very many different Ways. 512, to be exact. You can do almost just as well on the Computer, the office is in Nyakaturas professors. Most of these possible gaits already at first glance, not too smooth impression. Nyakatura and his colleagues are interested but just that: How Orobates? Because so far, it was this question – in addition to the when and where ever the water left – one of the great game of speculation meadows in the study of the Evolution of the four-legged friends, which will ultimately also a couple of two-legged, including the people.

Ur-Thuringian. This skeleton of Orobates pabsti Orobots model.Photo: Thomas Martens

"so Far, the prevailing opinion was, that had to be developed for the four-legged friends first is the ability to lay eggs and without larval stage in the water to get along," said Nyakatura. Only then, according to those hypothesis, you would have had the freedom to develop permanently to the country life customized, effective gaits.

land, country Bumpkin, country-conquest

animals that produce these kind of eggs are called amniotes in the zoologist language. They are named after the Amnion, one that not all of them occurring membrane of the egg. You made – along with a few other adjustments, the development of a Vertebrate embryo without tadpoles or fish larvae stage across the water. People are also amniotes, the Amnion bladder is the inner Skin of the fruit.

Only after those evolutionary "key innovation" by the name of Hayseed, the land vertebrates would have columns, therefore, in numerous groups. And thus, you have conquered the Land beyond the Shores and coasts, and learned to get more effective four-legged the spot. Orobates, Orobots model, "was a very close Relative" of that first real hick-Leger, which is also our ancestor, says Nyakatura. And he probably lived before the great species-splitting. He would have to actually have been a rather limited runner.

on-screen time. John Nyakatura, with presentations of his research objects, and with "Nature"-title page.Photo: Richard Friebe

he does not seem to have. Nyakatura and his colleagues were Orobot run. you could, for comparison, robot replicas today, living four-legged amphibians and reptiles to run, and also those of Computer simulations. From the original 512 options you stocked with Orobot after the other, including those where there had been bone collisions, or which would have been far too energy consuming or too unstable. After that, only a gait remained. That is already quite far from the ground abgedrückte spreading speed is considered to be more advanced and is otherwise similar to even today, about salamanders, iguanas, or caimans. "It was crucial that we had the tracks," said Nyakatura. Because that Orobot time machines had to follow in the footsteps of Orobates, many other possible variants, like the old four-legged friend could be on the way, exclude.

On the Cover

The zoologist Nyakatura, Lausanne robotics-Mr Kamilo Melo, and ten other participating researchers from Jena and Hamburg have managed this week with Orobot on the title page of the magazine "Nature". There article also appears on her research. It is primarily the methodology that gives you that honor is likely to be. This is because, unlike in previous attempts, the response to educate earlier goer, you really pretty much all the existing information, experimental methods and modeling techniques. "So, we were able to minimize the disadvantages of the individual approaches and benefits to maximize," said Nyakatura.

ran Orobates but really like his Robo-doppelgangers? That is, the researchers say, "plausible". But because at that time in Thuringia, in the early Permian Geological era, no one was there, it is still not sure. "We deal with this uncertainty in a very transparent manner," said Nyakatura. The researchers also activated a web site (, to the visitor, change parameters, and immediately afterwards the impact on the speed of the animal can see.
Tom Weihmann of the University of Cologne, researched intensely, and also robot-models walking movements and gaits of animals, called the methodology "impressive". Is impressed, he also assumed "that John Nyakatura has managed, apparently, the Expertise of very different groups of researchers from very different disciplines use here." Plausible is for him, too, that Orobates "has not moved halfway to the belly sliding". Finally, the land of the vertebrates was already at that time many millions of years. "That had formed long ago, a movement repertoire with the effective and also energy-efficient gear types, is actually to be expected. For example, when food is scarce, animals were able to move better and economical than less agile counterparts had an advantage and more likely to continue planted.

Comes Rexobot?

The methodology would be suitable, possibly, to draw conclusions on other activities of extinct animal groups, says Nyakatura. You could perhaps investigate even as copulating worked in the early four-legged friends. Because, after all, the country has not meant a decline of the ancestors, only that they had to be evolutionary, learn to move effectively, but also water reproduce independently via internal fertilization.

but Above all, one could try to solve more puzzles of locomotion of extinct groups of animals. Thus, for instance, discussed how the ancient bird species Archaeopteryx are actually flown, and what was the role of your legs.

More about

Evolution of the vertebrates, The Ur four-legged friend from the Arctic circle

Richard Friebe

it is also Conceivable the robot and the computer would be models to a model of a Tyrannosaurus rex. On the basis of footprints, how they were found, among other things, in the U.S. state of Wyoming, would you let them run. Results of such Experiments could then also show how plausible or implausible the Cretaceous predatory moves the animal in popular animation films, hunting and his prey is attacking. If you would then visit the researchers in his lab, maybe not so evil, if Rexobot is just there.

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